The Judas Priest History

September 1969  November 1970

October 1971  Fall 1972

January 1973  May 1973

Gull Records  April 1974

1969  1971

1972  1973

1974

SEPTEMBER 1969: The original Judas Priest is formed

In late '60s Birmingham, progressive blues rock was the sound of the day. A lad by the name of John Alan "Al" Atkins was already well known on the Midlands scene, having previously fronted The Bitta Sweet (who opening for such legendary names as Cat Stevens, David Bowie, and even for a band that featured Elton John and Rod Stewart together, as well as playing alongside 'Robert Plant and The Band Of Joy' in 1965!). Other bands Al led were Sugar Stack ('66 - '67), Blue Condition (1967) and The Jug Blues Band (1968). Returning from a failed deal in 1969 with the band Evolution, Al gathered some of his past associates to form a new venture. On bass was long-time friend Brian "Bruno" Stapenhill, who had been by Al's side in each of the former groups Al performed in. Drums were handled by John "Fezza" Partridge, who was previously with Al and Bruno in Sugar Stack, and joining on guitar was John Perry from The Jug Blues Band. This new group of Bromwich lads began rehearsing toward the end of the summer of '69 when, tragically, John Perry was killed in an automobile accident. The band vowed to carry on and auditions were held to find a replacement.

                          

                                                     Pre-Judas Priest Members 1968                      Judas Priest 1969
                                                     L-R:                                                                    L-R:
                                                     Bruno Stapenhill - b                                           Earnest Chataway - g
                                                     Al Atkins - v                                                       Bruno Stapenhill - b
                                                     John Perry - g  - R.I.P.                                       John Partridge - d

                                                                                                                                  Alan Atkins - v

A young upstart named Kenneth Downing (who would not go by the name of K.K. until early 1974) had been practicing guitar along to his favorite Jimi Hendrix albums for about two weeks and thought he'd give it a shot, but was turned down due to lack of experience:

"I'd only played through an amplifier about five or six times. I suppose I was a little ambitious back then."
- K.K. Downing, HEAVY DUTY official biography, 1984

Another Birmingham lad, 17-year old Earnest Chataway auditioned as well and was given the job. Ernie was a natural musician who played not only guitar but also harmonica and keyboard. Bruno Stapenhill vaguely recalls that Ernie was actually in a band that used the same artist agency as Black Sabbath, and that he sat in with them on harmonica back when they were still called Earth.

Having an experienced musician such as Ernie who had connections to Earth, it interested this new lineup when Earth changed their name to Black Sabbath. The quintet were taken by the sinister religious overtones of the name Black Sabbath and wanted something similar that would grab attention:

"We liked their name and so we searched for something in the same vain. Bruno came up with Judas Priest."
- Al Atkins, VICTIM OF CHANGES liner note, 1997

Future vocalist Rob Halford would also share how the name represented the band musically:

"The name JUDAS PRIEST came about I think just in trying to get the definition of listening to what we are musically, which I still think even today exists, which is that we can put across music that is very, very heavy and powerful and sinister in one respect, but also we can lighten up (and I use the word loosely) with the other types of music, such as the 'Beyond The Realms Of Death' or the 'Dreamer Deceiver's, the '(Take These) Chains' off... those mellower sides of the band. So I think the two words intermingle - the Judas and the Priest - the good and the bad, the light and the shade. We're not involved in Satanism. The name is just a name; it's been good to us."
- Rob Halford, 1983

As many bands would do when seeking a name, Bruno had been looking at song titles on the back covers in his record collection when he pulled out Bob Dylan's 1967 John Wesley Harding record and saw "The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest". Bruno proposed Judas Priest to Al, who agreed to the name. As the band began to get around and gain some exposure, Kenny Downing was watching from the wings and kept the name in his memory:

"There was this old van going down the road with a spray aerosol on the side that said, 'JUDAS PRIEST'. There was actually a little blues group in the area called Judas Priest... I kept seeing the van as I was standing in bus stops around the place. I just knew that I thought it was a great name and I wished that I was in that band..."
- K.K. Downing, BBC Radio 1, April 5, 1991

This early formation of Judas Priest began writing their own material and in late November they landed a deal with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records, but financial problems caused the label to fold early in the new year. The band continued to struggle on the local club circuit on into June, when Ernie Chataway departed and the rest of the guys agreed to disband over musical differences:

"We started rehearsing and writing some of our own songs, classing ourselves as a progressive rock band. We also played covers of bands like Spirit and Quick Silver Messenger Service. We advertised for work in a local newspaper, and a guy called Alan Eade from Ace Management came to our rescue. He put some gigs our way and took us into the studios to record some of my songs. We recorded two songs, "Good Time Woman" and "We'll Stay Together" and sent them off to several record companies.
We had interest from Harvest and Immediate Record companies, so we did a live showcase for them at a local venue in Walsall, The George Hotel.
"Among the audience that night was another singer called Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) who we were introduced to. Immediate Records liked the sound of us and gave us a deal. We signed a three-year contract (our manager gave us a champagne party at his house) and starting putting songs together for the first album.
"Two months later, the bubble burst when our manager Alan gave us the bad news that the record company had folded. This was a bitter blow for us. Back to the drawing board and back on the road touring.... We carried on touring into 1970, but started to drift apart musically, I wanted to explore the rock side and break away from the bluesy feel the band had developed. So, midway through 1970, we decided to split and go our separate ways."
- Al Atkins, VICTIM OF CHANGES liner note, 1997

"When Ernie left and I listened to the song 'Paranoid' for the first time, I imagined a similar sound for us."
- Al Atkins, May 1998

Had Al Atkins quit there, the story of Judas Priest would have ended before it ever got started!

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NOVEMBER 1970: Judas Priest, round 2

                       

                                                     Ken and Ian - the new order of Priest                             John Ellis 1970

Al Atkins still wanted to explore the harder side of rock music , so he spent the rest of the year searching for a band of like mind. Then one November night while scouting rehearsal rooms, Al happened upon a trio of schoolmates: bassist  Ian "Skull" Hill, drummer John Ellis, and the blonde guitarist Alan once rejected: Kenny Downing! The teenagers had formed a hard rock/progressive blues trio, but were in need of a singer to complete the lineup. Atkins was just what they were looking for. To hone their skills, they had been rehearsing for the past six months at Holy Joe's, an old Church of England school which had been converted into a rehearsal complex:

"It was a very famous place, and it would cost about five shillings (40 cents) to rent one of the old schoolrooms for a day. Everyone in the Midlands would use it, because there was nowhere else you could go and rehearse, turn up the volume as loud as you wanted, and blast out."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

"One night at a local rehearsal room called Holy Joe's in Wednesbury (run by a Vicar called 'Father Husband'), I heard a band I liked the sound of. I put my head 'round the door to see three young head-banging, crazy, long haired guys, amps full up."
- Al Atkins, Victim Of Changes liner note, 1997

"...I heard this infernal noise caused by a band called Freight. Their guitarist was K.K. Downing and this time I snapped him up!"
- Al Atkins, May 1998

"We didn’t have a vocalist in those days. We were just quite happy to go to rehearsal rooms and thrash out a few of our favorite songs."
- Ian Hill, Classic Rock Revisited, January 2002

"Alan was quite an experienced musician, and apart from being a vocalist he was also quite a good drummer, guitarist, and songwriter. We were over the moon that he was impressed by our playing and so we agreed to have him in the group."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

The lineup now complete, they were undecided about a name. The threesome were indeed proposing 'Freight', but Al didn't care for it, and as Kenny actually still preferred the name of Al's former band (as well as it had already gained a small following), Al asked his former band mates who agreed to allow the Judas Priest moniker to be revived.

"[The name Judas Priest] sounded like everything I wanted to be and do. To be recognized on a world-wide basis as 'somebody'..."
- K.K. Downing, HM Photo Book, 1984

"The one good thing is it keeps coming back 'JUDAS PRIEST' - the name was one of the best things that happened to the band; it was something that was quite easy to remember."
- K.K. Downing, Metal Works video, 1993

This new version of Judas Priest began playing covers around their home area, and once they got a few gigs under their belt, they started adding their own compositions, calling their brand of rock music "goodanloud". David Corke became the band's manager and encouraged them to cut a demo:

"One of my earliest songs was 'Mind Conception' and our friend and manager David Corke decided it was time to go into the studios and cut a demo. We recorded two songs at Zella Records, 'Holy Is The Man' and 'Mind Conception' in July 1971, but never listened to the advice of sound engineers, recording them live with no overdubs and loads of overspill. Having a sore throat and being stoned out of my head didn’t help either."
- Al Atkins, Victim Of Changes liner note, 1997

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OCTOBER 1971: Ellis leaves, Moore joins briefly, Campbell joins

The sketchy demo did not gain them recognition with the labels, but it did help them obtain better gigs, so most of the members left their jobs in order to keep up with the demands and see Judas Priest succeed. John Ellis was the only member to hold onto his day job, but the increasing number of gigs and conflicting work schedule was placing too much pressure on him, so he left the group in early October:

"I had a job so I could only gig on weekends. The big jump was asking ourselves, 'Do we quit our jobs or do we keep it as [just] a hobby?' That was the crucial point. Ken and I quit our jobs and John unfortunately didn’t."
- Ian Hill, Classic Rock Revisited, January 2002

Drummer Alan "Skip" Moore temporarily filled the spot vacated by Ellis. Before joining Priest, Alan had partnered with UK folk performer Nick Evans. In fact, Alan was the second guitarist of a duo guitar team with Nick (pre-dating Priest's Downing and Tipton collaboration) before turning to the drums.

             

                                                      Atkins, Moore, Downing, Hill, 1971                   Alan "Skip" Moor, 1972

For the remainder of the year, Judas Priest maintained their rigorous tour schedule throughout the Midlands, playing for just 10 pounds per night (their price would later rise to 25 pounds). Five guys living on such tight wages continued to take its toll and at the end of '71, Alan Moore found a better situation with the band Sundance (plus a stint using the last name "Moor" with Pendulum, a  band specially formed to fulfill a 6 month contract with the Moroccan Tourist Board in the summer of '72). Black drummer Christopher Louis (Chris) "Congo" Campbell filled the vacancy in December and by January, the band began to play outside their local area for the first time, including shows as far away as Scotland.

Chris Campbell, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill, Al Atkins, 1972

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FALL 1972: Taking the next step

Their status was steadily growing in '72 as a support act to bands such as Status Quo, Thin Lizzy and others, when Black Sabbath manager and promoter Jim Simpson signed them to a Birmingham company called I.M.A. (Iommi Management Agency), an artist agency run by Simpson, Norman Hood and Sabbath's own Tony Iommi. Former Priest bassist Bruno Stapenhill's new band Bullion and future guitarist Glenn Tipton's Flying Hat Band were also among the artist signed to the I.M.A. agency...

Dave Corke continued to manage Judas Priest while Simpson helped promote them in the London market, as labels wouldn't go to Birmingham to see a band (the labels were located in London, so they were only interested in bands that were good enough to play in London). With Simpson's help, Judas Priest reached the point where they had visited every known club in England, including the Cavern in Liverpool and the legendary Marquee in London. Their set included popular cover tunes as well as several of their own numbers. In fact, it was during that late '72 growing period that some of the Rocka Rolla tracks were written, including "Winter", "Never Satisfied" and a ten minute-plus epic, complete with lyrics, called "Caviar And Meths":

"Caviar was our first big finale when we played live, but was cut short on the album..."
- Al Atkins, Victim Of Changes liner note, 1997

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JANUARY 1973: Heavy Thoughts

On January 19, 1973, Judas Priest renewed a contract with Tony Iommi's now Tramp Entertainments agency, effectively keeping Dave Corke and Norman Hood as the sole agency and management representatives of Judas Priest. Shortly afterward, Atkins wrote "Whiskey Woman", (which would play a significant role for Priest down the road) and a song called "Heavy Thoughts" (an unfinished '73 demo existed, which Al would later record as a solo artist in 1995 and release in 2003). In fact, the members of Judas Priest planned to call their 1973 tour the "Heavy Thoughts Tour", but then the band lost a couple of key members...

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MAY 1973: Atkins and Campbell leave, Halford and Hinch join

Despite the growing success, the lack of a record deal, as well as poor finances, continued to burden Judas Priest, as they barely made enough to cover their tour and living expenses:

"We'd go off to a gig, hire a van, put our gear in it, pay a couple of roadies, perhaps cover the cost of a P.A., and if we were lucky we'd have enough for fish and chips and a bottle of pop on the way home."
- K.K. Downing, HM Photo Book, 1984

In order to earn some extra money, band members would go to the clubs on their own and introduced themselves as signed artists for Atlantic Records! One night Priest were in Liverpool and had no gig scheduled, so they used the approach to set up a gig across the cavern in a Greek tavern for 15 pounds and good quantities of traditional Greek dishes!

"We'd even sink to the level of getting girlfriends to go into some pub somewhere, and sort of charm a drink out of them, and bring it out to us."
- Ian Hill, VH1 Behind The Music, September 2001

But the grim cash-flow situation had taken its toll on both Al and Chris, and in May, both would leave the group:

"In so many words, Alan said, 'I've either got to make more money or leave.' We told him that there was no way we could suddenly start earning more, so he quit. I think Campbell said more or less the same thing, so he left too."
- Ian Hill, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

"Although there was plenty of work, the bigger we got, the more overheads there were, and we were still without that elusive record deal. Soon the financial situation became a problem - I had a baby daughter to support - so I said goodbye to Priest in 1973 and took a normal 9-to-5 job. Congo also left the band at this time, and our roadie Keith Evans left to join AC/DC as a personal roadie and technician to Angus Young. Everybody thought this was the end of the band, but K.K. and Ian decided to carry on with new members."
 - Al Atkins, Victim Of Changes liner note, 1997

And carry on they did! Though things looked bad for the pair as they found themselves once again without a drummer and a vocalist, a turn of fortune came while Ian was dating a girl by the name of Sue Halford, close friend of Carol Hiles who was Kenny's girlfriend at the time. Sue suggested that her brother Bob (he would go by Robert in '75 and shorten it to Rob after that) might make a good vocalist for Priest.

Halford got his start in music by singing in his high school choir, often standing out as exceptional to the other students. Then in 1966, at age 15, Rob joined his first band, Thark, which included his classroom teacher on guitar! Next, he joined Abraxis before becoming an assistant lighting designer at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton:

"When I left school, I did a little bit of amateur dramatics. I worked in a theater as a lighting electrician, but it's always been the draw of the stage. I was earning quite a good amount of money at the time for some one my age, so the decision to go into music professionally was a main one. My parents thought it was very silly, purely from an economic point of view..."
- Rob Halford, Sounds, February 11, 1978

But Rob soon found himself wanting to be in the spotlight, rather than behind it, so he returned to the stage via a short and forgotten stint in a local progressive blues outfit called Athens Wood, which included Mike Cain, Barry Shearn and Phil Butler. Rob never mentions the band, but promotional material was sent through Norman Hood's artist agency:

"I'm afraid I know very little about Athens Wood, other than they were a local Birmingham outfit who sent information to the agency."
- Norman Hood, 2003

       

                                                             Thark, 1966                                             Athens Wood, circa 1971                 Hiroshima, 1973

                                                        Young Rob with school teacher on guitar                                                                                  Looks like Rob stole
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  his teacher's tank top!

As far as Rob's own memory goes, the bands he was in were a building progression leading up to the heavier Judas Priest:

"The first band I was in was called Thark, T-H-A-R-K - don't ask me where the name come from - and then there was a group called Abraxis, and then there was a group called - this is the best one - Lord Lucifer! It was great - I had an old Francis Barnett motorcycle and I painted 'Lord Lucifer' on the petrol tank, you know with flames and things. I used to pull up behind people and mothers would pull their children down from the car and [go], 'Don't look at that, don't look at that!' Those are some of the names I remember - and Hiroshima - that was the one that really got me into the direction of Priest..."
- Rob Halford, BBC Radio 1, April 5, 1991

"I got together with Lord Lucifer and after that came Hiroshima. That's when I first really began to get a taste for rock. That lasted for about a year and then I joined Priest."
- Rob Halford, Heavy Duty official biography by Steve Gett, 1984

Featuring Halford on vocals and harmonica, Paul Watts on guitar, Ian Charles on bass, and John Hinch on drums, Hiroshima was a local hard rock band making the rounds and sharing the '72/'73 Midlands club circuit with Priest for the better part of a year. After Ian Charles was later released, Halford took over his bass duties(!) and a few demo tapes were possibly recorded, but the group never did take off.

During this time, Ian Hill was still dating Rob's sister Sue, who suggested to both Ian and Rob that her brother might be the perfect candidate to fill the open vocal spot. Rob brought John Hinch, his drummer from Hiroshima into the picture as well and off they went to Kenny and Ian's apartment. The apartment was crowded that day, so Rob and John were brought to the bedroom to wait for Kenny and Ian. As Rob sat listening to the radio, Kenny overheard him singing harmonies to a musical program, and the rest is history in the making:

"One night, Sue told me the job was up for grabs and asked if I might be interested. So I went over to K.K. and Ian's place, which was an apartment just outside Birmingham, and I sat in the bedroom with them for a couple of hours, talking about music and different things. Since they were also checking out drummers, I suggested bringing in John Hinch, who had been in my previous band Hiroshima. All four of us then went up to Holy Joe's for an all-night rehearsal and everything just seemed to click. They liked my voice and John's drumming and told us that the jobs were ours if we wanted them. Funnily enough, although he didn't tell me until later, one of the reasons K.K. had wanted to try me out in the band was because when we'd first met I started singing along to the radio doing harmonies, which he'd never heard before."
- Rob Halford, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

"That's right. I heard him sing along to a Doris Day record, of all things, and thought it was pretty impressive. Plus I found out he could play mouth organ, which was quite fashionable for rock bands in those days."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

"Ken is prone to exaggerate. God, Doris bloody Day. Why couldn't it have been Pavarotti? For God's sake, it's a story straight out of Cecil B. DeMille. I'll get you, Ken, you bastard!"
- Rob Halford, Circus, September 30, 1984

"So my acceptance into the group took place in the bedroom of the apartment of K. K. and Ian. No, it wasn't a casting couch session. It was just that so many people were around that day that the bedroom was the quietest place in the flat. Well it all began for me from that point."
- Rob Halford, Point Of Entry tourbook, 1981

"One day, me and Rob were over just tinkering around and in walked Ian Hill and mentioned to us that the singer and the drummer had left the band and they wanted replacements, and would we be interested in going to audition for Judas Priest?  Rob and I discussed the matter and felt that we didn't really want to be associated with this band, and if we did, we'd certainly change the name. Anyway, we ended up at the rehearsal and went through all their songs. Because the band had got a tour already lined up as support to a band called Budgie, Rob and I felt, 'Well what have we got to lose? If it's gonna put us out there, in time we're sure we can take this band over and it will become our band, or on the other hand, if it doesn't suit, fine, we'll carry on.' Off we went on tour after a few rehearsals and after the end of the tour, we'd sort of 'molded' into the Judas Priest situation very nicely - Rob had successfully changed it..."
- John Hinch, Insight Series interview, 1995

Though John claims Rob successfully changed Judas Priest for the better, it was really a team effort, as Rob had become a key writing partner with Ken, and the band as a whole began defining their sound and role in the hard rock genre by straying from the blues-rock elements that were so common at the time:

"K.K., Ian and I would jam at their apartment whenever we got the chance. We used to knock up tons of different ideas and make loads of cassettes. It was interesting because I think we were probably feeling our way as to how and what exactly Priest should be."
- Rob Halford, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

"We were pretty adventurous and we tried to steer away from basic twelve-bar stuff, because we were more into progressive rock. On the rare occasions that we did anything slightly close to a twelve-bar, we'd try and alter it dramatically by putting in some unusual changes. Most of the other bands around were sticking to the same basic stuff."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

Judas Priest 1973 L-R: K.K. Downing, Bob Halford, John Hinch, Ian Hill

The new abilities afforded by Rob's vocal prowess and Kenny's increasing talents and vision to expand beyond the norm led Kenny to write his first number - and it was to be a gem in the rough: "Run Of The Mill" was a dark gothic number that revealed a lot of Black Sabbath influence, yet also managed to have a stamp all its own that cause many fans of the early days to still hail it a top favorite from the debut album! Al Atkins' last work before leaving the band, "Whiskey Woman", was proving to be a successful show opener and Rob also contributed a number he wrote while in his former Hiroshima, the atmospheric "Red Light Lady". A demo was soon cut at London's Sarm Studios in 1973 that reports say also contained a track called "Ladies", though no other details of the song are available (this was probably "Red Light Lady", under a shortened title).

A reel-to-reel tape containing "Run Of The Mill" and "Whiskey Woman" recently turned up in the possession of former band agent Norman Hood. Al Atkins confirms that this recording features Rob Halford on vocals and that "Run Of The Mill" is the first song K.K. ever wrote. An interesting side-note: Basing Studios, used on the recording of Killing Machine, was later changed to the now famous Sarm West Studio and Sarm Studios, where the Priest demo was made, then became Sarm East Studio.

Manager Dave Corke shopped the demo around and it caught the attention of a small UK label called Gull Records, headed by label President David Howells:

                

                                                               David Howells 1990                            The Gull Records logo

David Howells had been in the record industry in one way or another since 1956, and had even been an executive in A&R for CBS and MCA Records during the mid '60s and early '70s. Howells was heavily involved with record sleeve designs as well, and in the early '70s he teamed up with graphics designer John Pasche to form Gull Graphics, which produced album covers for many of the era's biggest names. That venture brought in Derek Everett and Monty Babson, to form Gull Records and Songs (a record and publishing company subsidiary of Decca Records), which Howells ran from 1974 to 1982.

With Gull Records struggling and a top UK hit-making team known as Stock, Aitken and Waterman (better known as S/A/W, the team would play a role with Judas Priest in 1988) knocking at the door, David was appointed Managing Director of Pete Waterman's PWL Records in 1982 while continuing to license the Gull Records recordings to subsidiaries through his Gull Entertainments company. In 1994, David left PWL to return to his own music publishing ventures again, with his company Darah Music, managing the likes of top hit producer Steve Mac, among others.

In the early part of '74, while Priest were playing a series of British club dates, Corke invited Howells and his Gull Records associates to come see the band perform on the 11th of February at the London Marquee, as openers for the popular hard rock act Budgie. At the end of the night, Priest joined their fellow Birmingham friends onstage for a rousing encore of "Running From My Soul" that had the place going wild:

"Dave Corke, if I'm right, was already in contact (via Budgie) with Gull Records and got Dave Howells to come and see us at a gig in London..."
- John Hinch, Insight Series interview, 1995

"Gull had been down to see us at the Marquee club in London and although they probably didn't like our music, I think they were interested because of the tremendous reaction we got from the audience."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

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APRIL 1974: Priest sign with Gull Records; Tipton joins

After their London showcase for Gull Records, Judas Priest traveled abroad for the first time, touring in Germany and Holland through the beginning of March, then returning for two more weeks of British shows. At the end of March, the band left for a run in Norway and Denmark, where Kenny received his now-famous nick name of "K.K.":

"Kenneth Downing Jr. is my real name. A girl in Denmark couldn't pronounce it, so she called me 'K.K.' and it stuck."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984

It was also while touring Scandinavian that Priest received news about Gull Records wanting to sign them. On April 16, the band arrived in London to sign the contracts and thus begin their long-sought professional recording career...

At this point in time, Judas Priest were still a four-piece, one-guitar band. But David Howells wanted something different than the standard rock quartet that was so common in the day; he more-or-less insisted that an additional instrument be added to the sound. And while the band members were intrigued with the idea, they also had their apprehensions:

"We thought it was just another mouth to feed and that was pretty tough at the time."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

Howells proposed several ideas, including adding a horn player (!), but Ian Hill shares that after the band played a song for the label, it was clear that a second guitar would be the perfect fit. John Hinch recalls that David Howells and producer Rodger Bain came up with the idea for making the additional instrument a guitar, and Downing supported the decision, agreeing that a two-guitar approach would be best for the band as well:

"We played them a song, I forget which one it was, and somebody says, ‘That just begs for two guitarists'."
- Ian Hill, Classic Rock Revisited, July 1999

"I guess it came about, we were a four-piece, and we secured a record deal with a small company called Gull Records, who at the time didn't have many acts... They said, 'Well hang on a minute, we've just had Led Zeppelin, Free, and Black Sabbath, all with the same [type of] line-up. How about you guys add a keyboard player?' And we went, 'Nope!'. 'Sax player?' 'Definitely not!'. 'Well, you know, something else to change the line-up'. And I guess I did actually think about a second guitar player, because I was quite a fan at the time of a band called Wishbone Ash, and I quite liked obviously a lot of the harmony stuff that they did. So it seemed like a good, interesting idea to have a heavy rock band with two guitars. Also, that could be a really good idea because I was always quite conscious of the fact when I played lead solos, the sound on the stage got a bit empty. So I thought that would be pretty good."
-
K.K. Downing, BBC Radio, 6 Music, August 3, 2002

Perhaps Rodger Bain played the biggest hand in the decision for a second guitar: Bain had been the staff producer at British label Vertigo Records, where he produced Black Sabbath's first three albums on a shoestring budget and minimal equipment (he recorded Sabbath's debut on a 4-track deck in only 16 hours!), and thus, more by accident than technical prowess, helped shape Sabbath's heavy, evil sound - most notably, Tony Iommi's raw guitar tone. But around the time that Gull Records signed Judas Priest, Vertigo Records had also signed another group called The Flying Hat Band, and were in the process of finishing their debut album. Featuring Glenn Tipton on lead guitar and vocals, The Flying Hat Band evolved from the group Shave And Dry (where Glenn handled guitar and keyboard duties, as Glenn has actual training in piano). Shave And Dry briefly changed their name to Merlin before settling on The Flying Hat Band, and after several lineup changes, Glenn took over the lead vocal duties and made the band into a power trio. But after laying down some tracks for Vertigo Records, the project got shelved for sounding too similar to label mates Black Sabbath. Management and financial struggles soon brought about the band's demise and Glenn was ready to make his next move...

Four of the scrapped Vertigo tracks were unofficially released in 1992 by German re-issue label SPM International and English label Worldwide Records on a split CD, sharing tracks with a 1972 recording by Antrobus. This out-of-print CD is titled Buried Together. Two more untitled Flying Hat Band demo tracks also exist as bootlegs, while others remain locked away.

"I had the original album master for Glenn Tipton's unreleased, pre-Priest, Flying Hat Band album, until I gave it to him recently. [These songs] were very, very heavy - not what you would expect from the band's name. Actually, it's a very depressing listen - heavier than early Sabbath in places. The history of rock would have been a bit different if the Vertigo label had released that album pre-Rocka Rolla. Would Glenn have even joined Priest then?"
-
Garry Sharpe-Young, Rock Detector, 2002

        

                                         L-R: Glenn Tipton - g, Steve Palmer - d,            Live at 'Enry's Blues House, Birmingham

                                         Mars Cowling -b

"I was actually in a band called The Flying Hat Band, and we toured Europe opening shows for Deep Purple around 1974, when Glenn Hughes was in the band anyway... The Flying Hat Band was a rock ´n´ roll band with me, Carl Palmer's brother Steve Palmer, and an old friend of mine called Mars Cowley, who used to play with Pat Travers. A three-piece band, and I was the single guitarist, which I can never quite believe, and we toured with Deep Purple. It was a scary experience at the time. Shortly after that, we got management problems over in England, and Judas Priest asked me to join. And that was before the first Judas Priest album..."
- Glenn Tipton, Atlantis Online, May 7, 1986

With Rodger Bain and Glenn Tipton both coming out of Vertigo Records, it would seem a good bet that Rodger probably offered the name of Glenn Tipton for the additional guitar spot, though K.K. and the rest of Priest were already aware of Glenn, as The Flying Hat Band was a respected rival on the Midlands club scene and both bands were being handled by Tony Iommi's agency. Once the decision was made to open a second guitar spot, K.K. approached Tipton in a local music shop and asked him to join:

"We were at a place called What’s Music in Birmingham and Glenn walked in, and out of the blue, Ken went and asked him if he wanted to join the band. We were just standing there agog. After meeting us and having a couple of pints, he said, 'Yes'."
- Ian Hill, Classic Rock Revisited, January 2002

"I thought, 'I'll join Priest for a bit until I can do something else'."
- Glenn Tipton, Revolver, September 2003

Since there was nothing else going on at the time, Glenn felt it would just be a temporary move to help Judas Priest with their recording, after which, he figured to move on to other opportunities. But once he teamed up with K.K., it didn't take more than an instant for Glenn to recognize the potential that combining their differing styles (K.K.'s thinner Strat tone and whammy bar madness vs. Glenn's fatter, blues-flavored melodic runs) and reinforced rhythms had to offer. They would stay together and go on to forge what has been well-dubbed the "twin-axe attack"!

"We were definitely one of the first heavy metal bands to have two lead guitarists. A lot of bands seem to have copied the idea since then, but in those days it was quite innovative."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

"Every time I did a guitar solo, it sounded empty, so it made sense to recruit another guitarist to fill in the rhythm. But when Glenn joined the band, he was obviously a competent lead and rhythm player, so it was just automatic that he would take some solos. We would trade off solos and we also had the facility to harmonize with each other...it was just second nature for us."
- K.K. Downing, Hard Radio Shockwaves, 1998

"The band asked me to join before the first album, so we thought, 'Well, we've got two guitar players - how can we expand on that and give ourselves another dimension?' The light and shade was something we experimented with very successfully. It makes a heavy number really heavy if you come in from a light passage. In those light passages we really experimented with melodies, one guitar complimenting the other. Not necessarily harmonies, but cross melodies. We can pat ourselves on the back and say we really knew what we were doing, but we didn't really - we just kicked stuff around until it sounded right.

"We messed around with harmony lead sections and, funnily enough, harmony chords, and they became the norm. But when we're really laying it down, we don't mess with too many frills. When it gets gritty, that's when it should get gritty."
- Glenn Tipton, Guitar One, November 2003

"The one thing I ended up being able to play really well were chords. Since then, I've had a few classical lessons and some piano lessons, but I'll never be a melodic guitarist. I'm more into aggression than runs and scales, although I could play melodic guitar if I wanted to".
- K.K. Downing, Point Of Entry tourbook, 1981

"How much we drew from each other, I don't really know, but we put something together that we thought was a pretty good blend. Glenn was predominantly more blues-oriented, where I was sort of progressive and a bit wild."
- K.K. Downing, Revolver, September 2003

"Glenn and I are both very much of the same temperament. We've always been aware that, 'If you try and overtake me or try and overstep the mark a little bit, I'm gonna come down on you.' And that's the way it's always been with us."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984

With Glenn on board, Priest play a series of UK gigs to give the guitarist a chance to work with the band before they enter the studio to begin recording...

"I'm very proud of the fact that we carved our own niche in metal and rock history, and people have been inspired by us".
- Glenn Tipton, Guitar One, November 2003

Top

TOUR DATES 1969:

 Al Atkins - v, Ernie Chataway - g, Bruno Stapenhill - b, John Partridge - d

DATE

VENUE

CITY, STATE

COUNTRY

NOTES

November 25

George Hotel

Walsall

England

Their very first gig, as a showcase for Harvest and Immediate Records; Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant is in attendance

Top

TOUR DATES 1971:

Al Atkins - v, K.K. Downing - g, Ian Hill - b, John Ellis/Alan Moore/Chris Campbell - d

DATE

VENUE

CITY, STATE

COUNTRY

NOTES

??

Cavern Club

Liverpool

England

Support to Graphite

??

Cleopatras

Derby

England

 

??

Henry's Blues Club

Birmingham

England

 

?? 8

Club Westborne

Edgbaston

England

 

?? 9

Shrewsbury Rugby Club

Northampton

England

 

?? 11

Old Swinford Hospital school

Stourbridge

England

 

?? 13

Moor Farm Inn

Notts

England

 

?? 15

Hereford Town Hall

Burton

England

 

March 16

St John's Hall

Essington

England

K.K. and Ian's first Judas Priest gig

"There were probably 60 or 70 people there, but I do remember seeing a lot of hot pants and knee high boots! We got paid six pounds (nine dollars) and went down pretty well considering it was our first gig together."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

July 10

Dudley Tech

Dudley

England

Support to Trapeze and White Rabbit

August 14

The Village

Coventry

England

 

September 16

 

 

England

Support to Supertramp

October 6

Derbyshire

Yeoman

England

Support to Slade; John Ellis' Last Gig

October 15

Community Center

Newport

England

Alan Moore's First Gig

November 5

The Temple Club

London

England

Alan Moore's last gig?

"Our first London gig was absolutely terrible. It was a shed at the back of a pub and we were all well disillusioned. Coming from the Midlands, we obviously thought that getting to play in London would be the first stepping stone to success, but once we got there we realized straight away that wasn't the case."
- K.K. Downing, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

December 24

'Enry's Blues House at the Crown Hotel

Birmingham

England

Support to Bronco; Chris Campbell's first gig?

December 28

Stoneground

Manchester

England

 

Top

TOUR DATES 1972:

Al Atkins - v, K.K. Downing - g, Ian Hill - b, Chris "Congo" Campbell - d

Spanish Castle Magic - A Jimi Hendrix cover
Winter
Holy Is The Man - Al Atkins original never released by Judas Priest
Voodoo Rag - A cover tune?
Black Sheep Of The Family - A Quartermass cover
Never Satisfied
Whiskey Woman - Al Atkins original that became Victim Of Changes
Joey - A cover tune?
Mind Conception - Al Atkins original never released by Judas Priest
Caviar And Meths - Long version with lyrics

DATE

VENUE

CITY, STATE

COUNTRY

NOTES

??

Cavern Club

Liverpool

England

Support to Graphite

??

Zeplin King

 

England

 

??

Catacombs

Wolverhampton

England

 

??

Cafe Des Artistes

London

England

 

??

Pheasntry

Chelsea

England

 

??

Speakeasy

London

 

 

??

Spectrum

Stockport

 

 

??

Pedugh

Harrow

 

 

??

Fantasia

Northampton

England

 

January 1

Hucknall Miners Welfare Club (MWC)

Nottinghamshire

England

Headliners

January 2

Golden Diamond Pub

Sutton In Ashfield Nottinghamshire

England

Headliners

January 3

Youth Wing

Penarth

Scotland

Headliners

January 4

Bristol Legion

Cwmbach

Scotland

Headliners

January 6

Youth Centre

Kincardine

Scotland

Headliners

January 13

Pavilion

Cheltenham

Scotland

Headliners

February 18

2 J's Club Horn Hotel Braintree

Essex

England

Support to Freedom

February 26

The Greyhound Club

London

England

 

March 12

Bangor University

Birmingham

England

 

March 13

City University

Northampton

England

Support to ACE

March 24

Glen Ballroom

Llanelli

England

Support to Wild Angels

March 28

City Rock

Northampton

England

Support to Burnt Oak

April 12

Dix Club

Wolverhampton

England

Headliners

April 28

Fag Club

Wallgate

England

Judas Priest were called "fags" for having played this club of the same name...and this was before Rob was even in the band!

June 13
June 14

Ceda Club

Birmingham

England

Support to Dr. Ross

September 7

Town Hall

West Bromvich

England

Support to Gary Moore

September 24

Kinetic Circus

Birmingham

England

Headliners

September 30

Country Rock

Northampton

England

Support to Curved Air and ALF

October 4

Borough Hall

Stafford

England

Support to Strife and Thin Lizzy

"I remember that one night we were sleeping in our van somewhere on the M5 motorway...when suddenly Thin Lizzy appeared with their six-wheel truck. I remember that Phil Lynott suffered from the flu and Ian had a terrible headache. The whole situation was horrible and we had no money to buy medicine. Our food was eggs, beans, potatoes and coffee. Now that I think about it again, it was really miserable. We (bands) were all equal at the time, we helped each other. When somebody's van broke down, we gave them ours, and the other way 'round, of course. We could even sleep at their homes when we played somewhere near. We had shared Budgie's house many times."
- K.K. Downing, Metal Hammer, June 1996

"When I first became a fan of Thin Lizzy, they only had the one guitar player, Eric Bell. They were obviously a great band, but their two-guitar thing didn't really influence us. We had two guitars before we even had an album and were always a heavier band…
     "But I can remember we'd be going down the motorway in one direction and they'd be going the other sometimes. Back when we used to sleep in the van, I remember one night we both did a gig somewhere, we were on what we call the motorway services - you'd call them truck stops - and I remember one time we parked along side each other and Phil Lynott had a really bad toothache and he's like screamin' and moanin' in the night and keeping everybody awake. We eventually had to move the van to the other side of the car park!"

- K.K. Downing, BayInsider, July 2004

October 5

Marquee

London

England

Support to Mahatma Kane Jeeves

October 6

The County

Northampton

England

Headliners

October 10

Angel Underground

West Bromwich

England

Support to Gary Moore

November 5

The Temple

West Bromwich

England

Support to Danta

Top

TOUR DATES 1973:

Rob Halford - v, K.K. Downing - g, Ian Hill - b, John Hinch - d

"Priest had Al Atkins singing back then. They did a lot of gigs with us and they had this great drummer, a black guy called Chris Campbell. Their manager Dave Corke would always buy my clothes from me for some odd reason. I would walk into the agency office with a pair of jeans and a denim jacket and Dave would say "How much do you want for those?" So I'd sell them and walk out virtually naked."
- Frank Hall (drummer for Necromandus), Rockdetector: Ozzy Osbourne, 2002

DATE

VENUE

CITY, STATE

COUNTRY

NOTES

April 12

Dix Club

Wolverhampton

England

 

April 15

Hippodrome

Birmingham

England

Support to Family

July and August, support to Budgie on their "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" UK tour

July 17

Town Hall

Bolton

England

 

July 18

Town Hall

Castleford

England

 

July 19

Houldsworth Hall

Manchester

England

 

July 20

St. Georges Hall

Liverpool

England

 

July 21

Arts Cetre

Huddersfield

England

 

July 22

Memorial Hall

Criccigth

England

 

July 23

Memorial Hall

Northwhich

England

 

July 24

Borough Hall

Stafford

England

 

July 26

Drill Hall

Lincoln

England

 

July 27

City Hall

Hull

England

 

July 28

Alexandra Palace

London

England

London Music Festival with Nazareth and others

July 29

Albany Hotel

Nottingham

England

 

July 29

Memorial Hall

Barry

Wales

 

July 30

Boobs Of Tiffany's

Merthyr

Wales

 

July 31

Locarno

Coventry

England

 

August 1

Pavilion

Hemel Hempstead

England

 

August 2

Memorial Hall

Barry

Wales

 

August 3

Guildhall

Plymouth

England

 

August 4

City Hall

Truro

England

 

August 11

Town Park

Harlow

England

 

August ??

Outlook

Doncaster

England

 

August ??

Top Deck

Redcar

England

 

August 17

Global Village

London

England

 

August ??

Town Hall

Gainsborough

England

 

August ??

Top Hat

Spennymoor

England

 

August 26

Kendal Festival

Westmorland

England

 

September 6

Town Hall

Birmingham

England

 

Top

TOUR DATES 1974:

Rob Halford - v, K.K. Downing - g, Glenn Tipton - g, Ian Hill - b, John Hinch - d)

Series of British dates in January through early February

DATE

VENUE

CITY, STATE

COUNTRY

NOTES

February 11

Marquee

London

England

Showcase for Gull Records' David Howells and support to Budgie, joining them for an encore of "Running From My Soul"

First travels abroad, playing concerts in Germany and Holland during an icy winter from February 19 to March 4

"I've still got some very vivid memories of that tour, like traveling in the back of a Mercedes van and cleaning our teeth in the snow! Sleeping in the van was totally horrific, but we had to do it to save what little money there was. There were a lot of crazy incidents, including the time we got stuck in Stuttgart, with the temperature at minus 28 degrees and the diesel freezing!"
- Rob Halford, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984


"We were like the only persons on this autobahn, it was like iced-out; a big storm had come through. We were close to this place we were supposed to be playing at. As it happened, we actually stopped at the intersection - the slip route to the turnoff. So we stopped and the guys are, 'What are we gonna do?' So what happened was Ken and Glenn and John and a couple of the crew decided, 'Well we're going to go walk to the gig and go get help. So that just left me and Ian, the bass player, in this Mercedes. Well of course it was just like being in a freeze box.
"When the guys returned, we're like, 'What happened? What happened?' They're standing there and all they got with them is a bottle of Scotch and some candy bars. 'Well where the fuck were you guys? You were supposed to come get us.' And they said, 'Oh, well we found the club you know, and they were like really cool and there was a big party going on, so we just hung out and we had food and drinks and we all got drunk and passed out you know. And This is brotherly love..."
- Rob Halford, Rolling Stone Story Tale, 2000

Two weeks of club dates in England

March 15

City Hall

St. Albans

England

Double header with Rocks De Luxe

Tour of Norway from March 25 to April 7, during which time the band was informed they had landed a deal with Gull Records.


"We have so many memories from Sweden. I remember when we rode the ferry over to Gothenburg - we got seasick every time. And we had a Ford Transit van, but as we barely had enough money for gasoline, we slept in the van despite that it was very cold every time. Is it fucking winter there always?"
- Rob Halford, Aftonbladet, November 2, 2003

April 13

City Hall

St. Alban's

England

Support from Zippa Kids

April 22

Top Rank Suite

Doncaster

England

 

In late April, Glenn Tipton joins the Priest and the band plays May and June warm-up shows, as support to Budgie and Thin Lizzy before going in the studio to record at the end of June.

May 9

Town Hall

Birmingham

England

Glenn's first gig with Priest

May 10

Town Hall

Leeds

England

 


The back of this stub was signed by Ken (already going by "K.K."), Rob and Ian

May 11

Floral Hall

Scarborough

England

 

May 12

City Hall

New Castle

England

 

May 15

Heavy Steam Machine

Stoke on Trent

England

 

May 16

Tiffany's Club

Derby

England

 

May 17

City Hall

Sheffield

England

 

May 18

Stoneground

Manchester

England

 

May 19

King George's Hall

Blackburn

England

 

May 21

Memorial Hall

Barry

Wales

 

May 22

Pavilion

Bath

England

Cancelled

May 22

County Hotel

Taunton

England

 

May 23

Norfolk Art College

Kings Lynn

England

 

May 24

Victoria Hall

Tonbridge

England

 

May 25

City Hall

St. Albans

England

 

May 26

Woodsville Hall
Civic Centre

Gravesend

England

 

May 27

Guildhall

Plymouth

England

 

May 28

Town Hall

Torquay

England

 

May 29

Town Hall

High Wycombe

England

Cancelled ?

May 30

Top of the World
Civic Hall

Guildford

England

 

May 31

Community Centre

Slough

England

 

June 1

Eversham Hall

Eversham

England

Cancelled

June 1

Ploytechnic

Brighton

England

 

June 3

Sherwood Rooms

Nottingham

England

 

June 4

Tiffany's Club

Hull

England

 

June 5

Town Hall

Sittingbourne

England

 

June 6

Westgate Hall

Cantebury

England

 

June 7

King Alfred College

Winchester

England

 

June 8

Stadium

Liverpool

England

 

June 9

Marquee

London

England

Phonogram reps on hand give Thin Lizzy a new recording contract

June 14

Locardo Ballroom

Sunderland

England

 

June 21

Mayfair Ballroom

Newcastle

England

 

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